Some homes suffer from early pipe corrosion. This is serious, and it could lead to a repiping for the entire home, and that’s expensive. Plumbing pipes can corrode for a number of reasons, as the corrode they begin to lose integrity and cracks and breaks will form. This can lead to water damage that you may not notice at first, but it will be difficult and expensive to fix. In this article, we will look at why your plumbing pipes corrode and how to slow or even prevent corrosion as your pipes get older.
4 Causes of Pipe Corrosion
When the integrity of plumbing pipes is compromised, it’s often caused by a number of different factors working together. An older plumbing system is at greater risk than a newer system because pipes can begin to corrode only two years after they are installed if the right conditions are present. Some of the factors that cause corrosion may be surprising; for example, certain chemical drain cleaning products and the chemicals used in municipal drinking water can be very hard on your plumbing system. Here are four common causes of pipe corrosion.
- A Low pH Level
The pH level measures the acidity of your water; it ranges from 0-14, a pH level of 0 would be the most acidic and 14 would be the most alkaline. A pH level of 7 is a neutral balance of acidity and alkalinity. If you have copper pipes in your home, you need to be aware of the pH level of your water supply. If the pH level is 8 or higher, it is more alkaline, and a thin film of copper oxide can form on the inside of the pipes that can slow or minimize the pipes corrosion. But, if your water pH level is 7 or lower, it’s neutral or acidic, this copper oxide barrier then dissolves, and your pipes are far more vulnerable to accelerated levels of corrosion. This will manifest in the form of pinhole sized leads that can occur throughout your copper pipes.
- Water Velocity
We all like to high higher water pressures for showering and other tasks around the home. But, if the water velocity is too high, it can cause damage to your plumbing fixtures and pipes. A “closed loop” pipe system will be vulnerable to corrosion if the joints were badly or excessively soldered during the plumbing installation. The velocity of the water can be adjusted with the pressure regulator. The water pressure should be set to 40-80 psi to protect your plumbing.
- Water Temperature and Oxygen Levels
The water in your plumbing system is replenished constantly with fresh oxygenated water. This means that air (approximately 70% nitrogen and 30% oxygen) is being dissolved in your water supply. Nitrogen is a non-corrosive gas, but oxygen can cause corrosion to metal by a process known as oxidation. This process converts the metal to oxide or rust; the metal is made thinner and weaker as the corrosion continues. Then there are three possible outcomes.
The metal pipes will become thinner and vulnerable to a break.
Rust will accumulate in the pipe; you may notice rust in your water supply and the pitted surfaces will be a magnet for impurities.
Tiny cracks will begin to develop if there is any movement in the earth or a pressure change in the water supply a break is more likely.
If you want to slow down the corrosion process, you need to lower the temperature of the water in your metal plumbing pipes. When the temperature is higher, oxidation occurs at a faster rate, and that’s why corrosion occurs more often in hot water lines.
- Chemical Drain Cleaning Products
Chemical drain cleaners contain caustic chemicals that can quickly burn through a clog in your pipes. But, they are also powerful enough to damage your pipes at the same time, and they should be avoided. Manually clearing a clog with a plumbing augur or a plunger is a better method. If the clog is deeper or persistent, it’s a good idea to contact your local certified plumber
to remove the clog safely. They have the experience and tools to get the job done, and they will be able to identify any underlying issues to prevent the clog from returning later.
Copper Plumbing Pipes
Many people believe that copper pipes are highly resistant to corrosion, but this isn’t true. Copper is the most widely used material used to supply domestic water, and plumbing systems, approximately 80% of US buildings have copper pipes, and more than 5.3 million miles of copper piping has been installed. But, copper is vulnerable to corrosion due to the causes shown above, and this can cause copper pitting. When copper pitting corrosion occurs it can be broken down into three different types:
Type I: This occurs in a property where the water has a pH level of 7-7.8, and it’s moderately hard. This is often found in cold water lines, and it can result in pinhole leaks or a pipe break.
Type II: This occurs in a plumbing system that uses softer water with a pH level less than 7.2 and where the water temperature is over 140ºF. The copper pitting corrosion is less extensive, but it will often result in a plumbing pipe failure.
Type III: This occurs in soft colder water with a pH level over 8, and it can be identified by a blue tinge in the water. This is less likely to cause a break, but it can result in blockages because of the internal pipe corrosion.
If copper corrosion is identified at an early stage changes can be made, and the necessary repairs carried out to fix the problem. This will protect homeowners from larger water bills, extensive water damage, and the associated repair bills. If you’re concerned about any of the issues discussed in this article contact your local certified plumber for expert help and advice.
By Giovanni Longo President Flood Brothers Plumbing
Giovanni Longo is a 3rd generation master plumber who has been practicing his craft and trade in the greater Los Angeles area for well over a decade and a half. A plumbing and hydraulics-engineering innovator, Giovanni’s particular world-class expertise focuses on dealing with challenging sewer system designs as well as resolving complex commercial and residential draining issues. As a certified Flood Mitigation expert, he is also well versed in a wide variety of water damage and remediation solution.